Mayo Doctor insight on Delta variant and vaccines

Sarah Bunich
St. James Plaindealer

After a few months of lower case numbers and fewer restrictions on events and gatherings, the current state is starting to change a little with a new variant of COVID. The Delta variant has been the primary cause of infection in the country.

" With that higher rates of transmission and infection than we have seen in other variants," said Dr. John O'Horo, Mayo Clinic infectious diseases and critical care expert. " This hasn't been accompanied with the same degree of spikes and hospitalizations in no small part do the effectiveness of vaccines and masking in some areas."

Compared to the demographic of 65 plus being effected more by the first waves of COVID, the current Delta wave is effecting  younger people then what has previously been effected. O'horo said it is not clear if that is because this variant is more infectious to the younger people or more likely because we vaccinated a large number of older people.

O'horo recommend two things. First is getting vaccinated if a person hasn't yet. Vaccines is the most potent tools there is to bring COVID back under control. Other is masking in areas of high transmission, he said

"the combine effect of vaccinations and masking do more to reduce transmission than any one measure alone."

Vaccines have been working on slowing the transmission rate, but with the new Delta variant people with the vaccine are experiencing symptoms.

Breakthrough Cases

Break through cases have been reported in some of the new cases since the vaccines have started to the administered. A break through case can refer to a couple of things. Most commonly it is referred to as somebody who has received the COVID vaccine but has been infected with the COVID virus.

" I believe this definition is overly broad," said O'horo." Many of the people who are vaccinated have little to no symptoms, and were only finding this out because we are doing testing before procedures or testing before travel." 

In the way break through cases have been described it makes vaccines look like they are not necessarily working as well as they should.

"What the vaccines were really built for and quiet admirably reduce the server disease, meaning those who get hospitalized," said O'horo. " We are seeing some breakthrough hospitalizations, were someone is vaccinated still gets serve disease."

Most of the vaccinated being hospitalized cases they would have had the disease to this degree whether they were vaccinated or not. People with weaker immune systems have been the majority of the break through hospitalization cases. Everything will be based on how the high risk group does who may need another vaccine to help prevent break through cases.

Booster shots have been a topic of discuss in other countries, such as Israel, the United States vaccine companies have been doing research and looking at their data to figure out what could work. It isn't known what the preferred route to go will be, if it will be affective to do another shot of the same vaccine or if it may be better to go with the boosters that are under development now.

As the coming weeks go by the Delta variant is likely to accelerate in communities with lower rates of vaccination. Based on how the variant has hit other countries hard and fast O'horo said We can expect a peak here in the coming weeks with rapid decline. As for Winter it is difficult to know what to expect at this point.

COVID-19 is likely to become an endemic like the flu, with the same chances of transmission for people who are immune compromise or can't get the vaccine. "I anticipate longer masking in some settings than others," said O'horo. "In part by occupational needs and local transmission trends."